Hoppers U13s 40 Fleetwood U13s 12
Semi final, Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup – 17 March 2013.
The current strength of the North Lancs teams was illustrated by the fact that three out of the four semi-finalists in the Lancs Cup are from that Northern Division: Hoppers, Fleetwood and Fylde. The weather was not kind, with heavy rain overnight making the pitch heavy, with some standing water – not ideal for Hoppers open, running style. Drizzle and grey skies greeted the spectators, but anticipation was high for a keenly contested semi.
Hoppers kicked off playing down the slight slope and immediately put pressure on the Fleetwood team, winning the first scrum: Duggy picking up and driving hard as we won good ball. Fleetwood tackling though was good and the first attack was repelled. Hoppers had to do their own share of tackling in defense and the backs were putting good pressure on the Fleetwood threequarters, and Lewis put in a great tackle in mid field, relishing the contact and setting the tone for the match.
The first real threat from Hoppers came down our left flank with a run from Jake, but after beating several players he was run down and stopped by cover defense. The first try came soon after. Harvey took the ball in midfield after a good scrum win from the forwards, and powered over the gain line. The ball was quickly recycled and Tom fed the ball to the right, passing quickly through the backs. As often happens in games, a loose pass in mid field ended up creating uncertainty for the defense with Kieran securing the ball and sprinting down the right wing. His pace and power was too much for the cover and he ran in Hoppers’ first try, 7-0 after also making an excellent conversion.
Fleetwood were a little rattled now and, after a mistake from the kick off not going 10m, they immediately put themselves under pressure. Hoppers’ second try came immediately after with excellent continuity between the backs and forwards. The ball from the subsequent scrum was moved smoothly to our left, Jamie making a break and presenting the ball well to keep the move going. The ball was spun out again, Callum timing the pass well and setting Teo away who then fed Kieran on the right wing. He was stopped well by the Fleetwood defense but the ball was won quickly by the forwards and Duggy put in another powerful run to get well over the gain line. The forwards again recycled the ball quickly and it was moved on to Harvey at stand off, who straightened with his trademark drive and went over to score near the posts. 14-0 after another good conversion from Kieran.
Fleetwood kept trying to match the Hoppers’ powerful start and did have some periods of possession, and were doing well in the tight scrum. It was Hoppers, though, who scored the next try: from a good set scrum the ball went back to Kieran just outside our own 22 and he put up a great ‘up and under’. The chase was good and put pressure on their full back who spilled the ball forwards, straight into Teo’s hands who had chased hard. He shipped the ball quickly to Kieran who was chasing down his own kick, who then sprinted hard round the outside on the right to score again under the posts. 21-0 with another successful conversion.
Fleetwood were not giving up, and again came back to try to get some territory and pressure on the Hoppers line, which up to now had been 80% in the Fleetwood half, with none in the Hoppers red zone. Kieran, though, was putting in some excellent tactical kicking, and put the ball down into their 22, with the Fleetwood kick return not making much ground, giving Hoppers an attacking line out near their 22 line. Lewis, Ross and the rest of the tight forwards were having to work hard and put some great defensive work in to keep the Fleetwood forwards at bay. Fleetwood had some good periods and some success, but much of it in the middle of the pitch, rather than threatening the Hoppers line. The back row of the Sams, WMD, were also working hard and denying Fleetwood any quick ball, though they were pinged for a few penalties – par for the course these days for any back row!
Hoppers should probably have had a couple of more tries in this period, but were guilty of not moving the ball quickly enough after having sucked in the Fleetwood defense. Jake had a great run down the left, and quick ball followed, only for Hoppers to keep the ball in mid field and get stopped by the Fleetwood backs. Another great series of phases from Hoppers was stopped by Fleetwood and they won a penalty and a relieving kick. This, though, did not make much ground, and from the line out Duggy took the ball and was driven over for the forth try: conversion missed to make the score 26-0.
Kieran was still putting in some excellent tactical kicking and putting major pressure on the Fleetwood full back, who did well to recover from a high bomb and to get ball to the safety of touch. From the following line out Hoppers won the ball, and despite a scrappy ruck, span the ball out to the right. A great loop between Harvey and Callum created an overlap, Jamie timing a pass expertly to Teo who fed quickly to Kieran who ran in to score in the far right corner. Kieran then converted with a superb kick from the touch line to make the half time score 33-0.
The second half was started by Fleetwood and Hoppers carried on where they left off with a strong run to the left from Jake. Fleetwood through were keeping going and Sam W had to put himself around in defense with Duggy competing well in the mauls to keep Fleetwood in check. Kieran put in a super clearing kick from a penalty, making nearly 50m from a tight angle and a slick move in the backs followed down our right, with Callum, Jamie, Jake and Teo all involved. From the following line out throw, Duggy took the ball cleanly and powered over 20m beating all the defense to score. 40 – nil following another successful conversion from Kieran and the match was effectively over.
Hoppers made a number of substitutions to rotate the squad and Fleetwood kept on trying, never letting the scoreline get to them. This was epitomized by a great take by the Fleetwood full back, Will, who took a high ball and ran back strongly threatening the Hoppers line. Fleetwood were pressing hard and needed strong play from Hoppers forwards, particularly Matty S and Sam M and Sam W to keep them from crossing the line. Finally, the Fleetwood pressure told and they crossed for a try, but missed the conversion to make the score 40-5.
Fleetwood continued to press hard and some good last ditch defense was needed from Adam, James and Owen, who was unluckily yellow carded for a high tackle – our first ever!! He ‘took one for the team’ as although it was clearly high, he was carded because there were a couple of penalties before by other Hoppers players and we were on a sort of team warning. The 14 on the team continued to work hard in defense with Callum, Jamie and Harvey chasing down clearing kicks and making tackles in midfield. Fleetwood could have gone over before, but their handling let them down in very wet conditions – they did score eventually with the final play and converted to make the final score 40-12.
Again as in recent weeks, the match was played in great spirit, with both sides playing hard and fair and, given the conditions, great skill levels were on display. Hoppers now take on Fylde in the final at Southport on 28th April.